Europe Day 11 – Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo

The weather in Rome was as hot or maybe even hotter than Venice, though it was far more acceptable compared to the afternoon in Vienna. I chose to stay really close to Roma Termini Station while in Rome, and decided on UNA Hotel Roma which is just a block away after crossing the street. One great reason to stay around Termini is that Termini is also a major metro interchange amongst the 2 subway lines that most visitors would be interested in. Given that our arrival was by train, it made great sense to be able to walk to our hotel too! Prices for triple occupancy was also the most reasonable given that breakfast was provided. The hotel is also relatively new and had a bright lobby, but our room was still not ready even after with our arrival past 12 noon. Service by the receptionist was also not in the least friendly to extent that they did not seem to welcome us. Since we were looking to have lunch, we deposited our bags and went to explore on our own after getting a map from the receptionist.

Traffic along Via Torino
Traffic in Via Torino, near where we had lunch

We headed to the direction of Piazza della Repubblica, where 2 luxury hotels of Rome are located at. It was in a pizzeria at the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Torino that we had our lunch at. Similar to the previous night, we ordered one pizza and a spaghetti vongole to share and I also got a Tiramisu dessert at the end of the meal. After lunch we returned to the hotel to collect our room key and in our hotel, we had complimentary mini-bar as well as unlimited Wi-fi which I added onto the room for a small fee of 20 Euros per night. I found this quite reasonable since we had juices, beers and mineral water amply stocked in the room. I got a guide of the shopping areas of Rome from the concierge and proceeded towards Piazza di Spagna by Metro from Termini. Having taken the subway in Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna and seen the station in Prague, the subway in Rome is not one that I would like to linger for a long time. It reminds me of some underground cavern or city such as the one built by Shinra in Final Fantasy VII. We obtained a one trip metro ticket from the vending machines and for the first time in Europe, needed to insert our ticket into the gantry before entering the boarding area. In Germany, it seems the public transport authority trusts its people to pay for their rides, while not so in many other parts of the world.

Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti
Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or in short the Spanish Steps

Piazza di Spagna is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome in my opinion with the palm trees, terraced stairs and for a hot sunday afternoon, it was pretty crowded. Another reason I like the square was the shades the surrounding buildings provide, and there are a lot of people crowding the lone fountain in the middle of the square. Ladies will love this square for the shopping along Via dei Condotti and Via del Babuino. The Ferrari Store is also nearby at Via Tomacelli. However being a Sunday some of the stores notably the jewelries shop like Tiffany is closed though many of the boutiques are still open. We spent most of the afternoon shopping here and ending the evening with a walk along Via del Babuino towards Piazza del Poppolo. In the evening shoppers and visitors to the square were also treated to a performance by the Naval Band of Italy. On our walk along Via del Babuino, perhaps due to the narrow lanes in the city, I could find small city cars of all kinds and I had the luck to chance upon the original Fiat 500, of which the replacement I found to be an attractive proposition for city driving. The walk from Spagna to Piazza del Poppolo took around 10 minutes under a leisurely pace and one of the main attractions in this vast square is the obelisk in the centre as well as the nearly identical churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto. The twin churches are also famous for its location in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons as it houses the Bernini sculpture of Habakkuk and the Angel.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto
Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto

My objective of walking here, though was to head up the Pincio Hill from where we can get a bird’s eye view of Rome, including its most famous basilica – St. Peter’s. It is a moderate trek upwards to reach the Terrace in Pincio Hill, though the sunset views of Rome from the hill was worth every effort. After heading up the hill, our appetites suddenly grew and we headed to Casina Valadier for dinner. The venue was very beautiful as it allowed diners to admire the lighting up of Rome and enjoy views of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica while dining. Though the food was very disappointing for the price. We ordered some potato soup, which was more like potato puree, and main dishes of fish and grills. None of the dishes was to my liking and besides the view, there isn’t much for me to add on here. Somehow after our dinner, we weren’t also able to find any taxis on the hill, which meant that diners should perhaps request for a taxi beforehand or else walk down the hill towards Piazza del Popolo to find one. The taxi ranks in Italy are naturally dominated by Fiats and I got to sit in one Fiat Multipla taxi, the one that appears really ugly, though practical since it seats a total of 6. The drive back to the hotel from Piazza del Popolo was nice as the taxi driver passed by the Giant Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II along Piazza Venezia.

Panorama of Piazza del Popolo
Panorama of Rome from Pincio Hill Park
Dinner at Casina Valadier
Dinner at Casina Valadier in Pincio with a view of the dome of St. Peter’s

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